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New to Here...and Sulcatas

Discussion in 'Tortoises' started by Spikethetortoise, Jan 14, 2009.

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  1. Spikethetortoise

    Spikethetortoise Active Member

    So I got a sulcata tortoise within the last week. Got him set up in a 10gal (for now) with a dessert heating pad and a 10.0 UVB overhead light. Sand substrate a tupperware lid for a eatting area and a cardboard "cave". So far he's doing alright. He's very sleepy but is more active in the morning after an hour of the heating pad being on. But as of right now me and my roommate are working on building him a total tortoise dream home. We took an old bookshelf thats 3ft by 3ft and were gonna make an awesome little set up. Much less sand is gonna go into it. We'll have a focal basking spot as well. We plan on getting another one cause we each want one when we finish school in the next 1 and a half years. I got him on timothy hay right now with romaine lettuce being a once in a while treat. The next chance I get i'm gonna go out and get some other dark leafy greens to supplement nutrition as well as a calcium supplement to help with shell growth. If anyone else has any opinions please feel free.
  2. wgnelson

    wgnelson Elite Member

    Welcome aboard, and have a great stay! We have several Tortoise owners here. They will be along shortly to offer some advice/help. Photos of the construction phase of the new home would be welcome!
  3. schlegelbagel

    schlegelbagel Frog Lover Premium Member

    Welcome to the board. Some of your care is going to need tweeking. I'm not an expert, but I know the basics.

    First, don't turn off the heating pad at night. They need warm temps all the time. I would add a basking bulb. Since you have a 10.0 lamp, a simple house hold bulb would do, put it on a 12 on plus 12 off.

    Second, ditch the sand. Its terrible for them. They aren't built for sand and if they eat it can cause impaction. Go with something easy to clean, like shelf liner or tile.

    If you can, upgrade him to a 20 gallon for now. Its really hard to get a heat gradient with a 10.

    Romaine is worthless. Go for collard and mustard greens. With romaine you are pretty much feeding him water.

    And last but not least, I hope you understand the depth of your purchase. They don't stay small, living 100 years + and the males getting 200 lbs+.
  4. Spikethetortoise

    Spikethetortoise Active Member

    Yea I'm well aware of the size they get. I'm looking forward to many years of awe from neighbors and passer bys. I realized the sand was **** after putting it in which is why I'm doing a topsoil based substrate for the future home. Unfortunately the future home will take a month or two . I'll keep the heating pad on and when I get the chance Ill go out and get the collard and mustard greens. Its hard right now cause I'm in school full time and work full time. I'll post pics of the "build". Right now theres not much to look at lol. Oh and I put his food on a tupperware lid and keep the sand off of it so he doesn't eat any. I'm sure he still does but its at least a start. I'll see about getting a different substrate, what do you recommend?
  5. SurvivorSteph

    SurvivorSteph Subscribed User Premium Member

    While he's a juvenile, it's IMPERATIVE that you keep him OFF sand. This picture is what a small rescue of ours pooped...


    That's definitely SAND! :mad: Unfortunately, we got to this little one too late to save it. :(
  6. SurvivorSteph

    SurvivorSteph Subscribed User Premium Member

    Oh... welcome, by the way! :)
  7. Spikethetortoise

    Spikethetortoise Active Member

    lol thanks, and thankfully he hasnt pooped anything like that. So far everything is solid with bits of grass still stuck in it. What kind of substrate do you reccomend then?
  8. nicole

    nicole Elite Member


    First all I want to welcome you to HC!

    I am assuming that you have an extremely small baby. The first thing I can tell you that is very imperative the life of your sulcata, is that you change that diet immediately and ditch that sand. The sand will cause impaction and kill him, it could happen pretty quickly. No more romaine for any reason, it is nothing but water and no nutrients, it can also cause diahrrea which can lead to dehydration and a very untimely death. Collard greens, mustard greens, and a mix of other veggies. If you can get dandelion greens and the flowers that you know for a fact, is pesticide free, that is wonderful for them. Timothy hay is wonderful for them along with the other greens I have mentioned above. It is a mixture of food veggies that is important.

    As far as the substrate goes, use paper towel, it is the easiest to clean and it also helps you to monitor the bowel movements to make sure there is no problems with that. Also dirt, sand and all that stuff can cause irritation to the eye, which can lead to infection, and large vet bills. Save yourself the misery and just use the paper towels, lol.

    In a couple of years it wont matter much anyway, you will have a free roaming earth moving , demanding, giant shell, lol, just like I do. So the substrate wont be an issue.

    I also agree with Liz, try to upgrade to a larger tank to help get a better heat gradient going on. Do not shut the heat pad off at all, they need warmth constantly.
  9. SurvivorSteph

    SurvivorSteph Subscribed User Premium Member

    Well, if she ever poops something like that, it's probably too late. :( That's why a solid substrate is so important.

    Some solid choices include: newspaper, paper towels, shelf liner, sheet vinyl, etc.
  10. Spikethetortoise

    Spikethetortoise Active Member

    Well like I said im working on a 9 sq ft enclosure for him. Ill take the sand out immediately and place paper towel in there. When its completed im thinking about a topsoil timothy hay mixture. Oh and I'm not feeding him any lettuce anymore. It's mostly timothy hay.
  11. schlegelbagel

    schlegelbagel Frog Lover Premium Member

    You NEED to get veggies in there too. Just timothy hay will leave them very dehydrated. And don't even consider any type of granular substrate (sand, dirt, topsoil, whatever) it all gives the same results. These guys come from hard packed dirt.
  12. Spikethetortoise

    Spikethetortoise Active Member

    Yea I know about the veggies, its just a bit tough cause the only time I have off the store is closed. Ok so I was planning on the topsoil but now its no, sooo do they need only paper towels their whole life? Like is there a cut off date where I can put him out on some sort of regular substrate or is there a good substrate that I can buy that will work.
  13. schlegelbagel

    schlegelbagel Frog Lover Premium Member

    There is no need to put him on any substrate. Just anything that is easy to clean. Shelf liner, paper towel, large tiles, slate pieces....

    and for their whole life.... Start thinking about moving to Arizona and having an outdoor pen ;)
  14. Spikethetortoise

    Spikethetortoise Active Member

    Oh yea I know right lol I'm was actually thinking about moving to Arizona...I like warm weather anyways lol. I'll tell my roommate that was can save money by switching to paper towels. So when I get a cover made up for the pen and get him in it, what kinds of things could I put in there to keep him interested but without worrying about him tipping over or getting into something that could be dangerous. I was thinking about putting some plants in there but without any type of substrate he wouldnt get the full benefit of them until he grows tall enough to reach the leaves.
  15. schlegelbagel

    schlegelbagel Frog Lover Premium Member

    Just put the plants in pots... however your plants will become lunch. Remember, they are from dry brush in Africa, which is why the timothy hay is very important. You don't want it to be too humid for them. Nicole has a free roaming sulcata in her house. He's temperamental... you could say.

    Does he need a cover for the pen? Do you have other animals? On of the girls at a local rescue here, has a small sulcata in a kiddie pool. They can't really climb and its easy to clean. Just be sure he has a UVB basking spot. I would suggest getting a Mega-ray bulb. They are heat and UVB all in one and last a year, instead of 6 months like the tube lights last.
  16. Spikethetortoise

    Spikethetortoise Active Member

    Yea we have two cats. Were gonna make it high enough that the cats can't jump up on it, just in case. But we still are gonna make a cover. I'm gonna put a nice focal basking spot on this high area that i'm making. I've got a pretty good UVB light...its a spiral type like the energy saver lights. It's rated at 10.0. And I was kinda planning on the plants getting eatten anyways so thats no problem.
  17. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    You will need to upgrade him again at some point. 3x3 is not sufficient for an adult sulcata.

    Many hardware stores carry self-adhesive linoleum tiles relatively cheap (starting around 75 cents each) with various stone/slate/marble patterns that look somewhat natural, and wipe clean very easily. In a large enclosure, you could even use a mop on them.
  18. Spikethetortoise

    Spikethetortoise Active Member

    Oh yea I know that i'll be upgrading in the future. This is just a temporary enclosure for him as he grows. 9 sq ft could possible be the size of a adult sulcata, let alone house one.

    Oh and thanks about the info about the tiles, ill probably look into that.
  19. nicole

    nicole Elite Member

    Eventually when the tortoise is big enough, there will be no pen large enough to keep him in and him happy at the same time. They are natural roamers. Mine drives me crazy, lol, he roams ALL parts of my 5 bedroom house. Knocking over my sons Star Wars imperial walkers, destroying Gi Joes missions, little pet shop towns and barbie houses are not safe either, lol. Look out for the PS3 on the floor, the xbox 360, and there goes the WII, lol. In the summertime if it is warm enough I put him out in the backyard and then I bring him in at night.
    They are a creature of habit and will roam the same spot over and over. They will also sleep in the same spot over and over. My Oscar wears Depends diapers when he is in. or look out, gross disgusting things happen that will traumatize the whole family,lol.
  20. Spikethetortoise

    Spikethetortoise Active Member

    lol sounds like fun. Its like a giant baby with no care in the world. How big is oscar?
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